Tuesday, 21 April 2009

All things come in time

I was recently reminded that my blog was still stuck in the snow.

Well, some things take time. It has taken me seven and a half years of being at St Martin's to get round to visiting the remains of Dunstable Priory just up the road. Dunstable was once one of the great towns of England. It boasted a royal palace - part of which remains as a pub! Here Edward I's beloved Queen Eleanor rested on her journey to burial at Westminster - though the NatWest Bank now occupies the site of the former Eleanor Cross.

The remains of the Priory sadly consist of the nave only of the ancient church, together with about two thirds of the facade - including the sadly vandalized triumphal arch of the Great West door which would once have been a splendour of stone carving. Interestingly enough, because of the importance of the town and the wish of King Henry VIII to have smaller dioceses, following the suppression of the monasteries the Priory Church survived intact despite the demolition of the monastic buildings. The plan was for Dunstable Priory to become a Cathedral (as happened at St Albans and at Gloucester) for the county of Bedford, and plans even went as far as selecting the first Bishop of Dunstable. However, following Henry's break with Rome the scheme came to nothing and over the following years most of the church was destroyed as it became a convenient quarry for local people wanting building stone.

One wonders how the history of Dunstable might have changed had it in fact become a Cathedral City.